Jen Moff differentiates between community as an adjective and community indicating oneness. Your local coffee shop could be a portal into new relationships.
What is community?
When I hear that word many images come to mind. I think of community centers. I think of community theater. And I think of community college. Community, in these cases, is used as a descriptive term. It indicates what kind of thing the center, theater, or college is.
I shall define community as a group of any size who have the same interests and are connected by more than genealogy or geography.
Well how is community different from friendship? In many ways, it isn’t.
From CS Lewis’ work The Four Loves we see friendship beginning quite simply:
Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”
It is in this initial realization that one and one become one. They have the same interest. Although they may have just met, the bond is undeniable. It’s in the “you see me” and “I’m not alone” that they become a pair.
Say our two individuals are interested in… oh I don’t know, let’s say they are interested in yoga. Now, that may not seem like a big deal to you or me, but let’s pretend that they live in a town or city where yoga hasn’t quite become popular. So maybe each person does it at home, in solitude. They look up videos on YouTube to guide them in practice. They order DVDs to be shipped from Amazon. Each appreciating what yoga has done for them physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but each feeling very much alone.
Since community is a group of any size, even two individuals may be considered one. But now we shall expand the pair. Our two new friends have found each other.
They spend time together drinking Kombucha (another newly discovered commonality) at a local coffee shop. They talk about how they got started, what they love about it, how long they have been doing it, and so on. A person at the next table overhears their conversation and gently interrupts asking, “Excuse me, I don’t mean to intrude. But I couldn’t help but overhear you mentioning yoga. I’ve been curious about it for some time. Do you attend a class anywhere locally? I‘d love to try it.”
And then one plus one plus one becomes ONE. Three people. It grows.
Community grows when a truth is shared and we aren’t ashamed to stand in ours and join them.
What do I mean by truth? By truth, I mean a persons attitudes, values, and beliefs. These are the core parts of our personality. These are aspects of ourselves that are developed, traditionally, at a very young age. They come about in our socialization-from our caregivers, teachers, friends, family members, and so on. They are the parts of ourselves that we rarely question or are insightful enough to see. Some of us do begin to question and start walking down a path into the unknown, searching for something more, something else. They experience a “change of heart” and at times our newly found truths lead us away from those instilled during our early years.
And I’m sure we have all be there. You know what I am talking about.
Imagine sharing something that you are passionate about, and your once understanding and supportive friends and family look at you quizzically, as if you sprouted horns. They don’t understand. And it feels like they don’t “see you” anymore. You feel alienated. Alone. Wrong. Confused as to the lack of support. After all, it isn’t as if you are saying their truth is universally wrong, it just is no longer true for you.
But then a flash of that moment earlier in the coffee shop comes to mind. There are people who see you, who understand you and like you just the way you are. Acceptance. A place where you can breath.
There is a bond. A connection. But it isn’t just the bond. Its almost as if a key goes into a lock and opens a door to something more. And now that we aren’t alone, now that we have a buddy, or five or 10, or 50 or 100, we can each grasp the hand to our right and step through the doorway, together. This is our tribe that gives us strength to move forward with our truth.
Two years have passed.
Walking downtown, we pass by a large clear window on the left. Glancing in, a flash of still bodies is thrown into vision. Every inch of available space is filled. There is a sign-up sheet upon the wall for this weeks classes. Out of the corner of my eye, I see people walk through the front door smiling and laughing together. The sign swings above them showcasing the name of this space. “Community Yoga.”
Back inside, upon a small wooden stage sits the teacher.
It’s one of the original two.
One of the two who said, “I thought I was the only one.”
[image: via Alper Çuğun on flickr]